Whether singer and guitarist Larry Tritel is performing at a local cafe, a dinner restaurant, or a tea room, he says that his desire for his audience is always the same: to feel good.
He has found first-hand that music is therapeutic and can make people feel happy, and this is something he can share with others.
So you’re not likely to hear many songs or stories about the painful things that happen to everyone, ended relationships, death of loved ones, dreams that didn’t quite work out. Not that Tritel has never written about or experienced them. After weathering a divorce about 10 years ago, he quit playing music for a while, saying he had lost confidence in himself. “It took me a while to bounce back,” he says. But his real wake-up call came when his mother died a year and a half ago. “I realized just how fast our lives fly by,” says Tritel.
Since then, Tritel has come to appreciate the good things in his life. “I mostly sing songs that people recognize and love from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s with a little of everything else thrown in the mix,” he says.
You can hear Tritel live at Paint the Roses Tea Room and Cafe in Hopewell, Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and frequently at Thomas Sweet Cafe in Montgomery (next to Montgomery Cinemas), where he and harmonica guru Guy DeRosa will team up on Thursday, November 13.
Tritel’s calendar also includes upcoming performances at Paulie’s Restaurant and Saloon in Ewing and several venues in Flemington, New Hope, and elsewhere. For a complete schedule, see Tritel’s calendar at his website: larrytritel.com/gigs.html.
The musician says that while people visibly relate to his music by tapping feet or smiling, others just enjoy the ambience and positive background that the songs create. People who come to the restaurants are there to enjoy their meal and have a good time, he says, and his role is to enhance the diners’ experience, not dominate it.
Tritel swears that he’s not a complicated guy. But one could challenge his declaration after listening to a program featuring his original music on radio station WPRB’s “Songs You Can’t Hear on the Radio” broadcast that is posted on Tritel’s website. In “Magical Marian,” he sings, “She’s known around town as Magical Marian. She wants no money, she’ll perform for a meal. She says her greatest joy are the children because children believe that Marian’s real.”
That song was written quite a while ago, says Tritel. It wasn’t about any one particular person but about a lot of people who fear getting old, feeling unloved, and forgotten. And that’s all the more reason to do what you love as often as you can and be kind to others. That’s mostly how Tritel lives his life today, he says. So it’s not surprising that his life includes writing, playing, and listening to music.
Another original song is “I Wanna Be Bob Dylan,” in which Tritel pokes fun of himself and the musician he admires: “Well I wanna be Bob Dylan. Then I could make a killin’. Then I could sing so funny and make a lot of money. And all the young girls would be so willin’ if I could be Bob Dylan.”
Despite the humor, Tritel’s respect for Dylan outweighs any of the jabs he made in the song. Dylan has never been afraid to do what he believes in, says Tritel. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan dared to play electric guitar against the advice of friends and advisors. Though some audience members cheered, others booed, and allegedly, Pete Seeger was back stage yelling at the stage crew to cut the cords.
Dylan took his lumps that night but has been receiving kudos ever since and is still producing music and currently touring the U.S. and Canada. Some music historians enjoy the irony that on that night at the festival, Dylan ended his second set with “It’s all over now, Baby Blue.”
In the end, says Tritel, “You need to do what you believe in. The other guy might not be right.” Tritel, who has been advised against pursuing a career as a musician by well-intentioned family and friends, finds that today, his bookings in any given month often leave him wishing he had more time for himself.
But for every person who might have dissuaded Tritel from following his dreams, there are others who have kept him keeping on. His web page “Words of Wisdom,” pays tribute to them: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson. “I am thankful to all those who said ‘NO,’ to me. It’s because of them I did it myself,” he quotes Albert Einstein. And then, for a laugh, he quotes a recording company: “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” said Decca Records, speaking about the Beatles in 1962.
Tritel refers to some of his older songs as “my silly original songs.” Silly or not “The Garlic Song” was played on a BBC radio show: “Garlic the Wonder Bulb,” and has been performed by Tritel at the Pocono Garlic Festival over several seasons.
Feeling good and celebrating life is what matters, says Tritel, who pegs it well in his song and recording of “Jenny McGhee “ with a “ tinkling the ivory” piano back up from the Princeton Cafe Improv host Thomas Florek: “We’re off to the country, for a picnic with wine. We’ll spend the whole day out with Mr. Sunshine. Come along, we’ve got a lot of singing to sing. Ask Jenny McGhee if she’d like to do her thing.”
Tritel, who has lived in Lambertville for eight years, was born in the early 1960s and grew up in northeast Philadelphia. His father, a retired pharmacist, had put himself through college with money he earned from gigs playing saxophone and clarinet. His mother, the family homemaker, played piano at home.
One of Tritel’s favorite TV shows was “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Inspired by Campbell, Tritel began taking private guitar lessons at age 10. He played his first live performance three years later sitting in with the band at his Bar Mitzvah playing Santana’s “Evil Ways.” After high school he studied radio, television, and film at Bucks County Community College and Temple University. In addition to his current music business, Tritel is the coffee roaster at Thomas Sweet Cafe, where he frequently performs.
“I feel like it’s very important for all of us to be able to appreciate the things we have in life and not obsess over the things we don’t have,” he says. For Tritel, it’s things like health, a place to live, a car, friends, families, pets, and so many other things, not to mention “all the beautiful music in the world.”
“I love knowing what year the songs came out, who wrote them, who sang them and all that good stuff,” Tritel says. When asked why these facts are important, he responds, “For the same reason people want to know who created the polio vaccine, the airplane, or the light bulb. Those songs bring people so much joy that their importance in our lives can’t be underestimated.”
Paint The Roses Tea Room and Cafe, 37 West Broad Street, Hopewell. Sundays, a.m. to 2 p.m. 609-466-8200.
Thomas Sweet, 1325 Route 206, Skillman. Thursday, November 13, 7 to 9 p.m. 609-454-5280. www.thomassweet.com/locations/montgomery
For more dates and information, go to larrytritel.com or contact him at email@example.com.